Breast Implants and Mammograms

Woman waiting for mammogram

“Mammograms are so fun, I can’t wait to get my next one,” said no woman ever.

Nonetheless, every year millions of women do get them because early detection is one of the keys to surviving breast cancer. So, what if you have breast implants; can you still get a mammogram? Is a mammogram still effective? The short answers are yes and yes.

The American Cancer Society tells us, “If you have breast implants, you should still get regular screening mammograms.” While breast implants can make it harder to see certain parts of the breast, mammograms are still effective.

A 2015 study, published in the journal The American Surgeon, found no significant difference in cancer detection rates between women with or without breast implants. “Because implants did not significantly affect mammogram results,” say the authors. “Women with implants should be reassured that mammography remains useful in detecting cancer.”

That said, if you have breast implants and are going to get a mammogram, there are a couple things you should know.

Your exam will be a little different

Your breast implants are nobody’s business – most of the time. But when it comes to mammograms and issues relating to breast cancer, it is in your best interest to let your doctor and mammogram technician know about your implants. This is because they need to slightly alter your exam.

Four extra pictures (two on each breast) called implant displacement (ID) views will be taken. For these, the implant is pushed back against the chest wall, and the breast tissue is pulled forward. These views are a little tricky to do and they can be uncomfortable, especially for women who have a lot of scar tissue.

Your mammogram technologist should also be aware of your breast implants because, though very rare, implants have ruptured. Further, if you already have any breakage or leaking, a mammogram can make it worse.

The type of implant you have may matter

All breast implants are not created equal. The older they are, the easier they can be damaged by undue force. The materials used and the design of the implant can also impact the risk of rupture. Read more in our post, Saline or Silicone: Choosing the Right Breast Implant for You.

Some radiologists say that mammograms are better and easier for women if the breast implants are under the chest muscles. Others say it has no effect at all. Talk to your plastic surgeon before you have a mammogram if you have any questions or concerns.

“The benefits of getting a mammogram far outweigh the risks of implant damage,” say experts at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. If you are considering breast implants, you should get a mammogram before and, as soon as it’s safe, after. This way you will have a baseline for further mammogram comparison.

More than anything it is important to keep the lines of communication open between you, your doctors, and technicians involved in the examination of your breasts. Don’t be shy; before you have a mammogram tell them about your breast implants.

If you are thinking about having a breast augmentation but have concerns about its impact on breast examinations and cancer prevention, Dr. Slack would be happy to answer your questions. Get in touch to schedule a free consultation.